Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) has been over the past few years one of the more actively investigated proteins among those involved in inflammation, immunity, and the growth and inhibition of cells. TNF is destructive to cancer— hence, its name.

Loyd J. Old and colleagues at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York discovered TNF some 15 years ago. But it was only in 1984 that research into TNF really began to take off. “The decade-long effort to purify tumor necrosis factor finally culminated in 1984 with the cloning of the gene, the identification of the protein’s amino acid sequence and the production of large quantities of the factor,” Old wrote recently. “Since then there has been an explosion of information about the factor’s activities” (Scientific American, 258 (5), 70, May 1988). A 1987 research front—a cluster of 1987 papers and the earlier publications they consistently cite—on TNF...

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